Sunday, August 30, 2020

Animal Communication - Anna Breytenbach and the Black Leopard

I re-discovered this moving video about Anna Breytenbach, a South African-based professional animal communicator who has received advanced training through the Assisi International Animal Institute in California, among other sources. The video is well worth watching again, reminding us that we are not the only evolving and intelligent beings on the great Body of Gaia. Anna has been practising and teaching for about 18 years in South Africa, Europe and the USA with both domestic and wild animals.

The "Story Of An Angry Panther Who Talked To A Human". What if you could talk to animals and have them talk back to you? Anna Breytenbach dedicated her life to what she calls inter-species communication. She sends detailed messages to animals through pictures and thoughts. She then receives messages of remarkable clarity back from the animals. In this section, Anna transforms a deadly snarling black leopard into a relaxed and content cat. The amazing story in the video below is of how the leopard Diabolo became Spirit.......

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Masks of the Goddess: New Slide Show

I will be giving a Salon Presentation next week with the Association  for the Study of Women and Mythology, and put together a new, improved Slide Show!  Here it is below, and the Slide Share link - and I'm most grateful to Slide Share for making their wonderful service available.  And since I'm also doing a kind of "retrospective" here as I  wait for the heavy hand of Bloggers "new look" which may make it rather difficult to access my older posts, I copy below an article I wrote about the "Mythos" of the Goddess, and the creation of masks.

The Multi-cultural  Divine Feminine

"Western civilization has been overshadowed by the Father archetype, to the exclusion of the Mother archetype.  By suppressing the feminine, we have done enormous damage to our individual and collective psychic health, ​ to say nothing of the health of our planet."   
Jennifer Barker and Roger WoolgerTHE GODDESS WITHIN
In 2002, just before the invasion of Iraq, I directed an event with the Masks of the Goddess collection devoted to peace in Oakland, California.   I   remember a conversation I shared with one of my collaborators,  Dorit Bat Shalom, an Israeli artist who brought Israeli and Palestine women together in “Peace Tents” to share their stories in the 1990's.   

Dorit asked: "How can there be peace in the Middle east without the Shekinah?"  The Shekinah is the feminine aspect of God in Judaism.  Dorit explained "The Shekinah has been driven away from the holy lands. We cannot heal without her."

I never forgot her comment.  Because  indeed, endless strife does takes place in the very heart of what was once the fertile homeland of the ancient Great Mother, of Inanna, Astarte, Isis,  Asheroth, and the Shekinah.   Artists are mythmakers - and myths are the templates of dream, art and religion, the templates upon which both civilizations and individuals name what is sacred, and what is profane. I think the question Dorit raised is profound:  how indeed can there be peace, in the Mideast or elsewhere, when deity, and values, are personified and polarized as almost exclusively male? 

 A mythos that denies “the feminine face of God”, and degrades or belittles the sanctity of feminine experience - has left us a humanity divided against itself.

At the closing of our event participants and audience approached a masked “Sophia”, who held a mirror over her heart. As they drew near the stage, each saw themselves reflected in the mirror, the “heart of Sophia”.  The name of Sophia, the feminine face of God in early Gnostic Christianity, means "wisdom".  Ultimately, to "know Sophia" means to "know thyself". In all our complex diversity, male and female, dark and light, old and young.  The "mirror of Sophia" represented the Gnosis necessary to become true peacemakers.

The Goddess of antiquity and world culture, as well as in contemporary women's 
spirituality,   has a thousand faces - maiden, mother, wise crone, teacher, warrior, healer, destroyer, lover, nurturer of new life or the flame of creativity. She is found throughout world religions and mythologies, with names like red Kali, Inanna Queen of the stars, Quan Yin the compassionate, suffering Sedna Ocean mother to the Inuit, Aphrodite the capricious goddess of love, and Mary, the Virgin. To me, most of all, she is Gaia, Anima Mundi, the feminine “World Soul”.  As the collective power and voices of women rise now so does the Goddess, often hidden and underground, rising now from the buried past.  

I've found, with many others, that re-discovering and re-inventing these universal stories is important to empowering women.  They are also important on many other levels:  to restore the balance within the fragmented soul of humanity, which includes reverence for nature and the sanctity of embodied existence, and for the affirmation of women’s experience.  It's been my privilege to share some of that telling through the use of masks, dance, ritual and theatre.


When I studied mask making in Bali, I realized the Balinese had no understanding of our western discourse on, to them, is a way to commune with the deities of their Hindu religion. Everyone in one way or another assists in the daily practice of their beliefs,  from creating offerings for ritual events, dancing in performances, participating in Ketchak performances, or many other activities associated with festivals and ritual dramas. Every village has its collection of Temple masks, preserved for specific events, such as the seasonal battle between the Barong (light) and the witch Rangda (dark).   For the Balinese the Temple masks are not "art objects" - they "belong to the Gods", and are imbued with special meaning and energy, just as the telling of their stories is more than entertainment.

"Theater" comes from the same Greek word as "theology" - Theos, or "god". In traditional cultures, masks, drama and dance are about contacting the divine, and refreshing the mythologies that inform their cultures... Masks are never made lightly. Animated by the body, masks are threshold tools that mediate between this world and the realms of spirit. There are many procedures to be followed, including choosing the right materials from the right place, asking ancestral spirits what kind of mask is required for specific ceremonies, and consecrating the finished work. A great deal of preparation was necessary, and masks were activated and de-activated with great respect.

As psychologist Stephen Larsen commented in his 1996 book The Mythic Imagination:

"The primary function of the mask is to unite the indwelling wearer (and the observer) with a mythic being, or as Jung would say, 'an archetypal power'. The mask, as we have found in our own work, becomes a transformer of energy, a medium of exchange between ego and archetype. Thus in traditional societies one finds taboos surrounding the mask, its recognition as a power object.”

Among natives of central Mexico, masks used for corn and rain dances were destroyed after a number of years, because they believed they accrued too much power over time. This sensibility is found in Japanese Noh Theatre. Noh masks are created according to traditions that go back many generations to represent personae that have firmly become animated by the mask. Actors will often sit for days with a mask, creating fusion with the character. An artist I know once told me of an African mask at the Museum of Art in Milwaukee that, legend had it, sweated. She said she went to view it over a number of days, and sure enough, there it was, if carefully observed, sweating away. Unnoticed by hundreds of people, she commented, magic is literally on display. 

"We're really praying" Drissana Devananda, a Tantric dancer, said of her dance practice. "It's a devotional practice. We're not bodies seeking the spirit, but spirits seeking bodily experience. Dance is about remembering to function from our whole bodies, the "body mind". That is the place we remember the Goddess." 

The intent of sacred performance thus is to give movement and voice to multi-dimensional being. What happens when we invite the archetypal powers, the Goddesses and Gods, into our "magic circle"? The answer is, "If you build it, they will come."  I believe there is a magnetic field the dance practice engages, a field of synchronicity and relatedness we step into.

 "When you create within a sacred paradigm", playwright Elizabeth Fuller said "you find a strange thing. You are communicating with, and being fed by, sources you know are within you, but have a much greater reflection somewhere else. You are in touch with something timeless.”


As the group becomes a strong container, it generates energy that flows to the audience and beyond, an expanding circle. "Circularity" is the foundation of evolving Women's Spirituality.   The wheel of the elements, the wheel of the year, circulates. Water and wind move across the landscape like a sinuous snake. All things circle and wind and spiral. So does our creativity as we interact.

Masks are also about circles. To me, masks are an impeccable metaphor for the personae that encircle our souls.

Who are we, really? In the course of our lives we inhabit a noisy council of selves. The metaphor of the mask leads perfectly into that essential inquiry:  “Is this me? Or this? Can I wear this mask, become it for a while, express its unique qualities, feel it in my body, and find its story?  Can I take this mask off, have I become too identified with this mask to my detriment?"

We become, in my opinion, more compassionate beings when we can witness, embrace, and celebrate this "circle of self", from dark to light, mundane to divine, fragile to strong, young to old - as the integral being each of us really is. Not as an abstract concept, but as an authentic experience to be had within our spontaneous, creative imaginations, and in the sensory, visionary immediacy of our bodies. One way to do that is to use the mask consciously - putting on and taking off these many "faces", becoming self-aware shape shifters.

Each mask has its reserve of energy. Women and men exploring mythology with masks and storytelling may chose to work with an archetype for specific reasons; sometimes to call back something they feel has been lost. A woman named Turquoise who participated in a ritual drama in 2001, for example, told me that she discovered a joyful opportunity to reconnect with "the instinctual woman"  she had been in her youth when she worked with the  Artemis/Diana mask.

"I found", she wrote, "renewed love for the animals, the trees, for all living things. I saw my surroundings illuminated with light, the light of nature.  That is the domain of Artemis."

Some may find themselves drawn to a Goddess because she affords them an opportunity to explore something they need to discover.  Enacting the myth of Inanna’s descent to meet her dark twin Ereshkigal has been powerful visioning into the "underground" of the psyche for many who have created ritual events based upon this ancient Sumerian myth. Dwelling in the underworld, Ereshkigal may be understood as the “shadow self”, difficult to meet, necessary to not only know, but to cherish and integrate. The descent of Inanna is among the most universal myths of death, fragmentation, and psychic integration ever told: the shamanic "journey of the wounded healer".  Enacted in ritual theatre, it can represent initiation into mature empowerment; and it is also an enactment of the universal cycle of death and rebirth in the natural world.

The Goddess can also manifest in many intimate or contemporary ways. I remember making three masks for three young women who wished to create a performance about the Biblical Lilith, the "first wife of Adam" who was cast out of Eden because she would not submit to him.    They represented her as three aspects: a dark winged, elemental Lilith, a suffering Lilith cast out of Eden, and finally, Lilith as she appears today - a vamp.

"Mystery" derives from a Greek word, myein, which means "to keep silent". There are Gnostic experiences that cannot be spoken because they are, simply, larger than any word can express. They exist on multiple levels of meaning, and seem to cast us into the field of a consciousness that is greater than our individuality. 

Their expression belongs to dreams, art, myth and ritual. To too literally "describe" them is to diminish them and their potency. That was surely one of the reasons why the Eleusinian rites of Greece and Rome, which endured for 2,000 years, were called "Mysteries".

Ann Weller, an artist and community activist in California, took on the difficult task of invoking the "Dark Goddess" for a community ritual theatre event in 2000. At the approach of the millennium, their purpose was to symbolically transform the violence of the past century into a more just, evolved consciousness. As Ann described her process:

"The Dark Goddess is found in many cultures by many names, and is not aspected lightly. The work calls forth an internal capacity for psychic empowerment, an energy not easy for our limited ego selves to encompass. Because the work is, I believe, ultimately, impersonal. I was a brief vessel for an immense archetypal intelligence manifesting within the drama we created. And yet, the experience did bring personal change. You can't work with sacred theatre and not be changed in some way. I was being re-constructed, whether I was aware of it or not, to better serve Her. I found myself confronting aspects of myself that were just not useful any more. Which meant better serving myself. That's how I look at it. The little overlay of how I imagined myself, which had never been very effective, was now utterly obvious to me. My authentic power began to manifest."

In 1999 and 2006 it was my privilege to see the entire collection of masks used for the Spiral Dance, created by the Reclaiming Collective, in San Francisco. By offering to "aspect" a Goddess, each woman who wore her mask, and entered the Circle that night, was providing a blessing for all gathered, allowing the power of each Goddess to radiate into the world. This practice of viewing masks as “vessels for deity” - the gods and goddesses, the animal powers, the ancestral spirits - is a concept found in virtually all indigenous and early cultures, including the origins of Greek theatre.

There is a way of knowing that we are the artists of our lives, a way of seeing our creative process as participation in a conversation we are having with an infinitely conversant world. We’re dancing the future into the world by the stories we tell: like the web of the Native American creatrix Spider Woman, the threads of myth are spun far behind us, and weave their way far into the futures of those not yet born. May we dance empathy instead of despair, may we tell the stories that make life sacred and loving, profound and reverent.

 Photographs are by courtesy of:  Jerri Jo IdariusIleya Stewart, Thomas Lux, Peter Hughes, Ann Beam and Lauren Raine


Bat Shalom, D. 2002:   "The Peace Tent", interview with Lauren Raine.
"The Masks of the Goddess - Sacred Masks and Dance", self-published  with,  (San Francisco, California), 147 pages, 2019

Devananda, D. 2001:  interview with Lauren Raine. Unpublished  manuscript.

Fuller, E.  2001:  Interview with Lauren Raine, "The Masks of the Goddess - Sacred Masks and Dance", (2008) self-published  with (San Francisco, California), 147 pages, p.87.

Larsen, S. Ph.D. 1996:  The Mythic Imagination: The Quest for Meaning Through Personal  Mythology,   Inner Traditions (Rochester, Vermont),  P. 178

Raine, L. 2008:   "The Masks of the Goddess - Sacred Masks and Dance", (2008) self-published   with,  (San Francisco, California), 147 pages. 

Raine, L. 1999:   Performance, "The 20th Annual Spiral Dance", The Reclaiming Collective, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, California, Oct. 31, 1999. Community performance of annual event. 

Raine, L.  2004:  Performance, "Restoring the Balance",  Muse Community Arts Center, Tucson, Arizona, April 4, 2004.  Community performance, directed and produced by Lauren Raine. 

Raine, L.  2004:   Performance, "A Thousand Faces",  Black Box Theatre, Oakland,  California, October, 2002.  Community performance, directed and produced by Lauren Raine.  

Darling, D. 2000         Performance,  "Masque of the Goddess", Sebastopol Community Hall,  Sebastopol, California,  May,   2000.  Community performance, directed   and produced by Diane Darling. 

Smith, T. 2001     Correspondence with Lauren Raine.

Weller, A.: 2001:     Interview with Lauren Raine, "The Masks of the Goddess - Sacred Masks and Dance", (2008) self-published  with  (San Francisco,  California), 147 pages.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Numina: Spirits of Place in Myth and Nature

Numina: Spirit of Place, Myth and Pilgrimage

Blogger is about to change to its new version, which I and many others don't like at all, and because of this I feel obliged to pull up some of my favorite posts, perhaps for fear that they will soon be lost or very hard to find.   I began this Blog in 2007 to document my Aldon B. Dow Fellowship at Northwood  University, where I followed, with art and spoken word, my  trail of the Spider Woman.   Since then there have been  over a thousand posts, and thousands of readers, for  which I am most grateful!  

Like many, our attitude is "if it's not broken, don't fix it".  We love this Blog look and format.  But apparently Google does not.  The "new Blogger" will make it much harder to access older posts, and it is designed for scrolling fast through cell phones, reducing, in my opinion, the average attention span from a minute or so  to a microsecond.   Just what we all need, more speed.

So - here is an article I love, and haven't revisited this subject for quite some time, although I remember to thank the Numina of my garden each morning, and I think of the little offerings of insense and rice and fruit that Balinese women make to the Gods, and to their own versions of the Numina, each and every morning.  

In this article from 2013 I was thinking, based on my own spiritual and mythic experiences, about the importance of Pilgrimage to the formation of mythology.  I was thinking that pilgrimage - going to a special place with receptivity and spiritual intention -  may have much to do with the actual interaction between place and society throughout human history. 

“To the native Irish, the literal representation of the country was less important than its poetic dimension. In traditional Bardic culture, the terrain was studied, discussed, and referenced: every place had its legend and its own identity….what endured was the mythic landscape.”
R.F. Foster, (2001, p. 130)

 The Romans believed that special places were inhabited by intelligences they called Numina, the “genius loci” of a particular place. I personally believe many mythologies may be rooted in the experience of “spirit of place”, the numinous, felt presence within a sacred landscape. 

To early and indigenous peoples, nature includes a “mythic conversation”, a conversation within which human beings participate in various ways. Myth is, and always has been, a way for human beings to become intimate and conversant with what is vast, deep, and ultimately mysterious. Mything place provides a language wherein the “conversation” can be spoken and interpreted, and personified. Our experience changes when Place becomes “you” or “Thou” instead of “it”. 

In the past, “Nature” was not just a “resource”; the natural world was a relationship within which human cultures were profoundly embedded. The gods and goddesses arose from the powers of place, from the powers of wind, earth, fire and water, as well as the mysteries of birth and death. In India, virtually all rivers bear the name of a Goddess. In southwestern U.S., the “mountain gods” dwell at the tops of mountains like, near Tucson, Arizona, Baboquivari, sacred mountain to the Tohono O’odam, who still make pilgrimages there and will not allow visitors without tribal permission. This has been a universal human quest, whether we speak of the Celtic peoples with their legends of the Fey, ubiquitous mythologies of the Americas, or the agrarian roots of Rome: the landscape was once populated with intelligences that became personified through the evolution of local mythologies.

 The early agrarian Romans called these forces “Numina”. Every river, cave or mountain had its unique quality and force –its inherent Numen. Cooperation and respect for the Numina was essential for well-being. And some places were places of special potency, such as a healing spring or a sacred grove.

As monotheistic religions developed, divinity was increasingly removed from nature, and the natural world lost its “personae”. In the wake of renunciate religions that de-sacralized nature and the body, and then the rapid rise of industrialization, nature has become viewed as something to use or exploit, rather than a relationship with powers that require both communion and reciprocity. Yet early cultures throughout the world believed that nature is alive, intelligent, and responsive, and they symbolized this through local mythologies. From Hopi Katchinas to the Orisha of Western Africa, from the Undines of the Danube to the Songlines of the native Australians, from Alchemy’s Anima Mundi, every local myth reflects what the Romans knew as the resident “spirit of place”, the Genius Loci. 

Contemporary Gaia Theory revolutionized earth science in the 1970’s by proposing that the Earth is a living, self-regulating organism, interdependent and continually evolving in its diversity.  The Gaia Hypothesis, which is named after the Greek Goddess Gaia, was formulated by the scientist James Lovelock and co-developed by the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s. While early versions of the hypothesis were criticized for being teleological and contradicting principles of natural selection, later refinements have resulted in ideas highlighted by the Gaia Hypothesis being used in subjects such as geophysiology, Earth system science, biogeochemistry, systems ecology, and climate science, of which are integral and interdependant.   In some versions of Gaia philosophy, all life forms are considered part of one single living planetary being called Gaia.  In this view, the atmosphere, the seas and the terrestrial crust would be the results of interventions carried out by Gaia through the co-evolving diversity of living organisms.

If one is sympathetic to Gaia Theory, it might follow that everything has the potential to be responsive in some way, because we inhabit and interact with a vast living ecological system, whether visible to us or not. Sacred places may be quite literally places where the potential for “interaction” is more potent. There is evidence that Delphi was a sacred site to prehistoric peoples prior to the evolution of Greece. Ancient Greeks built their Temple at Delphi because it was a site felt to be particularly auspicious for communion with the Goddess Gaia. Later Gaia was displaced by Apollo, who also became the patron of Delphi and the prophetic Oracle. Mecca was a pilgrimage site long before the evolution of Islam, and it is well known that early Christians built churches on existing pagan sacred sites.

There is a geo-magnetic energy felt at special places that can change consciousness. Before they became contained by churches, standing stones, or religious symbolism, these “vortexes” were intrinsically places of numinous power and presence in their own right.

Roman philosopher Annaeus Seneca junior commented that:
 "If you have come upon a grove that is thick with ancient trees which rise far above their usual height and block the view of the sky with their cover of intertwining branches, then the loftiness of the forest and the seclusion of the place and the wonder of the unbroken shade in the midst of open space will create in you a feeling of a divine presence, a Numen."

Personal Encounters

Many years ago I lived in Vermont, and one morning I went down to the local Inn for a cup of coffee to discover a group of people about to visit one of Vermont’s mysterious stone cairns on Putney Mountain, the subject of a popular book by Barry Fell, a Harvard researcher, and under continual exploration by the New England Archeological Research Association (NEARA). I had stumbled upon their yearly Conference. Among them was Sig Lonegren , a well-known dowser and researcher of earth mysteries who now lives in Glastonbury, England and was then teaching at Goddard College in Vermont. Through his spontaneous generosity, I found myself on a bus that took us to a chamber constructed of huge stones, hidden among brilliant foliage, with an entrance way perfectly framing the Summer Solstice.

Fell and others suggest that Celtic colonists built these structures, which are very similar to cairns and Calendar sites found in Britain and Ireland; others maintain they were created by a prehistoric Native American civilization, but no one knows for sure who built them. They occur by the hundreds up and down the Connecticut River. Approaching the site on the side of Putney Mountain, I felt such a rush of vitality it took my breath away. I was stunned when Sig placed divining rods in my hands, and I watched them open as we traced the “ley lines” that ran into this site. Standing on the huge top stone of that submerged chamber, my divining rod “helicoptered”, letting me know, according to Sig, that this was the “crossing of two leys”; a potent place geomantically.

According to many contemporary dowsers, telluric energy moves through stone and soil, strongest where water flows beneath the earth, such as in springs, and also where there is dense green life, such as an old growth forest. Telluric force is affected by planetary cycles, season, the moon, the sun, and the underground landscape of water, soil and stone. Symbolically this “serpentine energy” has often been represented by snakes or dragons. “Leys” are believed to be lines of energy, not unlike Terrestrial acupuncture lines and nodes, that are especially potent where they intersect, hence dowsers in Southern England, for example, talk about the “Michael Line” and the “Mary Line”, which intersect at the sites of many prehistoric megaliths, as well as where a number of Cathedrals were built.

At the time I knew little about dowsing, but I was so impressed with my experience that months later I gathered with friends to sit in the dark in that chamber, while we watched the summer Solstice sun rise through its entrance. We all felt the deep, vibrant energy there, and awe as the sun rose to illuminate the chamber, we all left in a heightened state of awareness and empathy.

 Earth mysteries researcher John Steele wrote in EARTHMIND, a 1989 book written in collaboration with Paul Deveraux and David Kubrin, that we suffer from what he called “geomantic amnesia”. We have forgotten how to “listen to the Earth”, lost the capacity to engage in what he termed “geomantic reciprocity”. Instinctively, mythically, and practically, we have lost the sensory and imaginative communion with place and nature that informed our ancestors spiritual and practical lives, to our great loss. 

We diminish or destroy, for money, places of power long revered by generations past, oblivious to the unique properties it may have, and conversely, build homes, even hospitals, on places that are geomagnetically toxic instead of intrinsically auspicious. Our culture, versed in a “dominator” and economic value system, is utterly ignorant of the significance of place that was of vital importance to peoples of the past. Re-discovering what it was that inspired traditional peoples to decide on a particular place for healing or worship may be important not only to contemporary pilgrims, but to a way of seeing the world we need to regain if we are to continue into the future as human culture at all. 

Making a pilgrimage to commune in some way with a sacred place is a something human beings have been doing since the most primal times. Recently unearthed temples in Turkey’s Gobekli Tepe reveal a vast ceremonial pilgrimage site that may be 12,000 years old. The Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece combined spirit of place and mythic enactment to transform pilgrims for over two millennia. 

One of the most famous contemporary pilgrimages is the “Camino” throughout Spain, which concludes at the Cathedral of Santiago at Compostella. Compostella comes from the same linguistic root as “compost”, the fertile soil created from rotting organic matter – the “dark matter” to which everything living returns, and is continually resurrected by the processes of nature into new life, new form. Pilgrims arriving after their long journey are being metaphorically ‘composted’, made new again. When they emerge from the darkness of the medieval cathedral in Compostella, and from the mythos of their journey, they were ready to return home with their spirits reborn.

In 2011 I visited the ancient pilgrimage site of Glastonbury, England. Glastonbury’s ruined Cathedral once drew thousands of Catholic pilgrims, and Glastonbury is also Avalon, the origin of the Arthurian legends, the Lady of the Lake and King Arthur - a prehistoric pilgrimage site with origins that go back to unknown beginnings.

To this day thousands, like myself,  still travel to Glastonbury for the festivals held there, and for numerous metaphysical conferences, including the Goddess Conference I attended. The sacred springs of the Chalice Well and the White Spring have been drawing pilgrims since long before recorded history, and many people, like myself,  come still to drink their waters. 

Making this intentional Pilgrimage left me with a profound, very personal sense of the “Spirit of Place”, what some call the “Lady of Avalon” and taking some of the waters from the Holy Springs back with me  is ever a reminder of the dreams, synchronicities and insights I had there.  A trip to the Chalice Well in the winter of 2018 resulted in a profound experience of syncronicity and communion I can only call magical.

Sacred Sites are able to raise energy because they are geomantically potent, and they also become potent because of human interaction. “Mythic mind”, the capacity to interpret and interact with self, others and place in symbolic terms (as, for example, the way the Lakota interpret “vision quest” experiences) further facilitates the communion. 

Sig Lonegren, who is one of the Trustees of the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, and a famous dowser, has speculated that as human culture and language became increasingly complex, verbal, and abstract, we began to lose mediumistic, empathic consciousness, a daily intuitive gnosis with the “subtle realms” that was further facilitated by ritual. Dowsing is a good example of daily gnosis. “Knowing” where water is something many people can do without having any idea of how they do it. Sometimes, beginning dowsers don’t even need to “believe” in dowsing in order to, nevertheless, locate water with a divining rod.
With the gradual ascendancy of left-brained reasoning, and with the development of patriarchal religions, he suggests that tribal and individual gnosis was gradually replaced by complex institutions that rendered spiritual authority to priests who were viewed as the sole representatives of God. The “conversation” stopped, and the language to continue became obscured or lost.

Perhaps this empathic, symbolic, mediumistic capacity is returning to us now as a new evolutionary balance, facilitated by re-inventing and re-discovering mythic pathways to the Numina.


Foster, R.F.(2001) , The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland (London: Allen Lane/Penguin Press), page 130.

Lovelock, J. and Margulis, L., (1970) The Gaia Hypothesis, quote is from Wikipedia
Retrieved on: May 11, 2014

Seneca, L. Annaeus junior (65 A.D.) Epistulae Morales at Lucilium, 41.3.
Retrieved on: Wikipedia

Fell, B. (1976, 2013). America B.C.: Ancient Settlers in the New World
Artisan Publishers, N.Y.

Raine, L. , EARTHSPEAK:  Envisioning a Conversant World, Presentation Conference on Current Pagan Studies, Claremont, CA. 2018.

Lonegren, S. (2013) Mid Atlantic Geomancy, Blog. Retrieved on:

Steele, J. (1989). Earthmind: Communicating with the living world of Gaia, with Paul Devereaux and David Kubrin. Harper & Row: N.Y. Page 157.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Some Re-discovered Art from the 80's

"Light is the Left Hand of Darkness" 1987  Lauren Raine

Going through old portfolios, found these works from the mid 80's - I will be donating them to the Association for Study of Woman and Mythology's upcoming benefit auction.  I didn't used to like these pieces but now I do!  But in the intervening years I have become much more self-confident. 

"Kali's Dance"  1989  Lauren Raine

"Lilith" 1985, Lithograph  Lauren Raine

Friday, August 7, 2020

A Great Era to Be Alone - Reflections on the Art of Conversation

 "We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party...........As we get used to being shortchanged on conversation and to getting by with less, we seem almost willing to dispense with people altogether. "
Sherry Turkle*,  NY Times SundayReview | OPINION

I really like the work of Sherry Turkle , who writes so cohesively on something I so often have thought about,  i.e., my concern that we are increasingly losing the pleasures of a  conversant society.   On my cynical days,  I sometimes feel that a world devoted to  consumerism is also reflected in how people relate to each other - as disposible.  After all, all you ever have to do is push the "Delete" button.

I come from the Dark Ages, a time before PC's, the Internet, before cellphones, even before cable TV.  If you wanted to talk to someone, you met them for conversation, you called them on the phone that was usually at your home or a phone box, or you wrote a letter.  None of this was instantaneous, it took a bit of planning. You were never available 24/7 - no one could call you while you were driving a car, nothing bleeped in your pocket demanding your attention while you were trying to talk to your husband. 

I remember so fondly the coffee houses I virtually lived in the Bay Area when I was in my 20's, the Cafe Med and Cafe Trieste for example, famous coffee houses known for their ambiance, and the poets and writers and cultural creatives that hung out there.  Generally people went for an espresso and to converse, a far cry from the impregnable wall of laptops you encounter in a coffee shop now, their operators often with headphones on so they can be more effectively plugged into cyberspace.  I confess that I am still puzzled by one isolated table after another with such a computer operator on it.  When did coffee shops become private office cubicles?  

I do know that I no longer try to engage people at random in conversation, which seems a great loss somehow.  Everyone is seemingly on the internet, and very busy.   And I don't call people I know personally, because it seems more  like an imposition now.  And I don't send emails or letters much either, because no one seems to have time to answer, or I'm lost somewhere in the Spam filter. But of course now, with the Pandemic, the coffee houses are closed anyway, and social isolation and distancing is not just a cultural phenomenon - it's necessary.    It's a good thing  I have cats and lots of books.

But  I find what Sherry Turkle had to say very interesting, and take the liberty of sharing her article from 2012 here.    In the Age of Connection,  it seems like a great era to be alone.
The Flight From Conversation


WE live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates. My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.

Our colleagues want to go to that board meeting but pay attention only to what interests them. To some this seems like a good idea, but we can end up hiding from one another, even as we are constantly connected to one another.

A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. He doesn’t stop by to talk; he doesn’t call. He says that he doesn’t want to interrupt them. He says they’re “too busy on their e-mail.” But then he pauses and corrects himself. “I’m not telling the truth. I’m the one who doesn’t want to be interrupted. I think I should. But I’d rather just do things on my BlackBerry.”
an Otherwise Engaged society

A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. A senior partner at a Boston law firm describes a scene in his office. Young associates lay out their suite of technologies: laptops, iPods and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on. “Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits.” With the young lawyers in their cockpits, the office is quiet, a quiet that does not ask to be broken.

In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. I think of it as a Goldilocks effect.

Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.

Connecting in sips may work for gathering discrete bits of information or for saying, “I am thinking about you.” Or even for saying, “I love you.” But connecting in sips doesn’t work as well when it comes to understanding and knowing one another. In conversation we tend to one another. (The word itself is kinetic; it’s derived from words that mean to move, together.) We can attend to tone and nuance. In conversation, we are called upon to see things from another’s point of view.

FACE-TO-FACE conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits. As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters. It is as though we have all put ourselves on cable news. Shakespeare might have said, “We are consum’d with that which we were nourish’d by.”

And we use conversation with others to learn to converse with ourselves. So our flight from conversation can mean diminished chances to learn skills of self-reflection. These days, social media continually asks us what’s “on our mind,” but we have little motivation to say something truly self-reflective. Self-reflection in conversation requires trust. It’s hard to do anything with 3,000 Facebook friends except connect.

As we get used to being shortchanged on conversation and to getting by with less, we seem almost willing to dispense with people altogether. Serious people muse about the future of computer programs as psychiatrists. A high school sophomore confides to me that he wishes he could talk to an artificial intelligence program instead of his dad about dating; he says the A.I. would have so much more in its database. Indeed, many people tell me they hope that as Siri, the digital assistant on Apple’s iPhone, becomes more advanced, “she” will be more and more like a best friend — one who will listen when others won’t.

During the years I have spent researching people and their relationships with technology, I have often heard the sentiment “No one is listening to me.” I believe this feeling helps explain why it is so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed — each provides so many automatic listeners. And it helps explain why — against all reason — so many of us are willing to talk to machines that seem to care about us. Researchers around the world are busy inventing sociable robots, designed to be companions to the elderly, to children, to all of us.

One of the most haunting experiences during my research came when I brought one of these robots, designed in the shape of a baby seal, to an elder-care facility, and an older woman began to talk to it about the loss of her child. The robot seemed to be looking into her eyes. It seemed to be following the conversation. The woman was comforted.

And so many people found this amazing. Like the sophomore who wants advice about dating from artificial intelligence and those who look forward to computer psychiatry, this enthusiasm speaks to how much we have confused conversation with connection and collectively seem to have embraced a new kind of delusion that accepts the simulation of compassion as sufficient unto the day. And why would we want to talk about love and loss with a machine that has no experience of the arc of human life? Have we so lost confidence that we will be there for one another?

WE expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone. Indeed our new devices have turned being alone into a problem that can be solved.

When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here connection works like a symptom, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.

Think of it as “I share, therefore I am.” We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we’re having them. We used to think, “I have a feeling; I want to make a call.” Now our impulse is, “I want to have a feeling; I need to send a text.”

So, in order to feel more, and to feel more like ourselves, we connect. But in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude, our ability to be separate and gather ourselves. Lacking the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people but don’t experience them as they are. It is as though we use them, need them as spare parts to support our increasingly fragile selves.

We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely.

I am a partisan for conversation. To make room for it, I see some first, deliberate steps. At home, we can create sacred spaces: the kitchen, the dining room. We can make our cars “device-free zones.” We can demonstrate the value of conversation to our children. And we can do the same thing at work. There we are so busy communicating that we often don’t have time to talk to one another about what really matters. Employees asked for casual Fridays; perhaps managers should introduce conversational Thursdays. Most of all, we need to remember — in between texts and e-mails and Facebook posts — to listen to one another, even to the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another.

I spend the summers at a cottage on Cape Cod, and for decades I walked the same dunes that Thoreau once walked. Not too long ago, people walked with their heads up, looking at the water, the sky, the sand and at one another, talking. Now they often walk with their heads down, typing. Even when they are with friends, partners, children, everyone is on their own devices.

So I say, look up, look at one another, and let’s start the conversation.

*Sherry Turkle is a psychologist and professor at M.I.T. and the author, most recently, of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.

** For more on Sherry Turkle, a previous post: