Saturday, October 30, 2021

Remembrance for Samhain

My mother and my brother used to sit together to watch the sun set here. 
  They are gone, but I remain.

So on this time of the "thinning of the veils" I create this very personal  post, in which I remember some of my own Beloved Dead.  I will join a few others on the night of November 1st to eat, drink and remember the Beloved Dead around a little fire pit this year, and I have my "list" of those I wish to remember on the Feast of Samhain altar I made.  As I get older the list gets longer, and the need to praise them becomes more important, more poignant.

“Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.”

                     ― Martin Prechtel, The Smell of Rain on Dust

Amy Sefton - who created "Madam Ovary", brilliant performer and artist,  one of the kindest  and most generous souls to walk the earth, kind to me in my often fiery chaos.  I wish, Amy, I had had a chance to say goodbye.  May we meet again in green summer, when the pipes are playing and the banners flying, wearing our best bodices.  

Jeaneen Vogal Ph.D.   - you turned up in my life, a psychologist and a friend, when I needed someone desperately  to talk to and work with to unravel my family history.  You  turned up like an angel and offered me talk, tea, appreciation for my art, therapy I never could have afforded in exchange for what I could offer, my art.  You gave insight into so many things.  Even a couch to sleep on when I had no where else to go, and no one to tell my stories to.  Thank you so much, Jeaneen, for a healing hand in the dark.  

Charles Spillar.  Friend to so many, community organizer, supporter of the arts, helper of artists and of veterans,  preserver of the Valley of the Moon - my friend too.

Joanna Brouk,  my  oldest friend from the halcyon days of our youth in Berkeley.  One of the first, and finest, synthesizer composers, lost and then found again when we were
 much older, always missed.

Abby Willowroot, founder of the Goddess 2000 Project, an artist who brought images of the Goddess to thousands, and organized a community Arts Project that did, indeed, as she said:  "Make a Goddess on every block".  We travelled to Bali  together.   She inspired so many, although she was not always an easy woman to know.

My brother, Glenn.  So intelligent and sensitive, 
so overwhelmed by the harshness of the world.

Carol Christ,  a truly Great voice for the arising of the Goddess in our time. 
 Missed by so very many, although her work will remain to speak eloquently that which must be spoken of.

Frank Barney,  Creator and Co-Creator of Brushwood Folklore Center - a beautiful piece of land and forest that houses a Center that has brought together thousands of people over the years in Celebration of nature, ritual, music, Magic, and Fellowship.  A true Home for me over the years and the many blessed summers I spent there.  I can't praise Frank enough for his kindness, vision, and love of people and the land.

Ursula Kroeber Leguin,  mentor and muse, her words and her worlds
will linger with me and inform me until the day I die. 

Jeff Rosenbaum,  Creator and Co-Creator of Starwood Festival, the biggest
Pagan festival  on the East Coast.  He believed in me, when I didn't, a great gift.  May the
 Starwood Bonfire burn bright for you,  every year, continuing your legacy, Jeff!


"Mr. Grey", the noble and ever mysterious "Guard Kitty".  He was killed in the spring,  and I always miss him.    May you run free, old friend, catching many mice in that great Hunting Ground where noble and brave cats go.

and, of course,  I thought of this song by Jackson Browne.  We are all Dancers...........

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Dia de los Muertos! A Presence in the Southwest!

It's that time again!  Día de los Muertos
  approaches with celebrations beginning on November 1, (D
ía de Muertos Chiquitos--The Day of the Little Dead) ( also All Saints Day) and continuing on November 2, (All Souls Day). It is a joyous occasion when the memory of ancestors and the continuity of life is celebrated, and a beloved holiday in Mexico and South America.  It's celebrated in Tucson with a famous parade and festivities that go on late into the night......although, I am not sure it will be so this year with Covid still rampant in Arizona.

I love the vibrant color (and humor)  of Mexican culture and art, and in the Celebration of Dia de los Muertos it becomes most flamboyant.  It is a celebration, praise, for those who are no longer with us, and they are loved and remembered in the best way possible:  with a party to which they are invited, in fact, to which they are the Guests of Honor.  To me, the richeness of the art and the flowers and the offerings of food are all about the richness of life, and the richness of having been given life, and shared life, with those who came before us.  

Tucson's "All Souls Procession"

Like the Celtic traditions of Samhain, which were also associated with the end of the year and the last harvest festival, it was believed that at this time of the year the souls of the departed can return to visit the living (the "veils are thin"). It is not a time of mourning since, as the Latin saying goes, "the path back to the living world must not be made slippery by tears".

Celebrations for the dead originated in indigenous Mexico before the Spanish conquest. Following the Spanish conquest of Mexico during the 16th century there was a blending of indigenous customs with the new Catholic religion. All Saints' Day and All Hallows Eve (Halloween) roughly coincided with the preexisting Día de Los Muertos resulting in the present day event. Although the skeleton is a strong symbol for both contemporary Halloween and los Días de Los Muertos, the meaning is very different. For Días de Los Muertos the skeleton is not a scary or macabre symbol at all, but rather represents the dead playfully mimicking the living.

Very often, a large community altar may include many small personal shrines, such as the one below that includes Frieda Kahlo.

Or here are some personal shrines made by artists:

Preparation begins weeks in advance when statues, candies, breads and other items to please the departed are sold in markets. A sweet bread, pan de muerto, with decorations representing bones is very popular, as are sugar skulls made from casts. All sorts of art objects and toys are created. This gives the economy a boost in much the same way as our Christmas season does. Alters ofrecetas (offerings) are set up in the home with offerings of sweets and fruits, corn and vegetables, as well as the favorite foods and beverages of the deceased. It's not unusual to see a good cigar and whiskey bottle beside a photograph of a loved one. These offerings may later be given away or consumed by the living after their "essence", and the loving remembrance, has been enjoyed by the dead. Marigolds are the traditional decorative flower.

The particulars of the celebration vary widely. On November 1, Día de Muertos Chiquitos, the departed children are remembered. The evening is sometimes called la Noche de Duelo, The Night of Mourning, marked by a candlelight procession to the cemetery. On November 2, Día de los Muertos, the spirits of the dead return. Entire families visit the graves of their ancestors, bringing favorite foods and alcoholic beverages as offerings to the deceased as well as a picnic lunch for themselves. Traditionally there is a feast in the early morning hours of November 2nd although many now celebrate with an evening meal.

There are sugar skulls and toys for the children, emphasizing early on that death is a part of the life cycle, and the importance of remembering those who have passed on to another kind of life.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Hildegard Von Bingham


Back in the late 90's a number of new renditions of the works of Hildegard von Bingham became popular, and I learned about this amazing medievil visionary and composer then.  In fact, I vaguely remember attending a ritual created by Mary Singing Wolf in Putney, Vermont focused on her work - I just remember a very large, intense presence at that ritual event.  

A couple of years later I was in Berkeley, and I performed a ritual invocation of my own  with this haunting, visionary rendition of Hildegard Von Bingham's  "O Successores Fortissimi Leonis" by the group Vox.  The invocation was done at my "Rites of Passage" Gallery in Berkeley, California, in honor of the approach of Samhain, the last harvest festival, the time to honor the Beloved Dead, and also the time when "the veils between the Worlds are thin".  The Invocation was done with 4 women in a circle,  turning the circle with gestures of offering.  I felt that "presence" again, dark and rich and strong, and I've never forgotten that performance, the gestures of offering as we turned in a circle.  

I had a wonderful community of young performers and ritualists that somehow came to work with me at my Gallery..........remembering them as well, and how rich those years were, how magical.   The man on the right, by the way, was wearing my "Mirror Mask".  

I recently  played the Von Bingham  piece again and was delighted to find it had been uploaded on UTube.  Von Bingham's vision and prayers reach across the ages to touch me again.  I just felt like sharing it here.

From "The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago

Hildegard von Bingen.jpg
Illumination from the Liber Scivias 
showing Hildegard  receiving a vision
 and dictating to her scribe and secretary

"Hildegarde of Bingen, also known as St. Hildegard and the Sybil of the Rhine, was an enormously influential and spiritual woman, who paved the way for other women to succeed in a number of fields from theology to music. She was a mystic writer, who completed three books of her visions. During a time when members of the Catholic Church accorded women little respect, Hildegarde was consulted by bishops and consorted with the Pope, exerting influence over them.

She wrote on topics ranging from philosophy to natural healing with a critical expertise praised by both German advice-seekers and the highest-ranking figure in the Church, Pope Eugenius III. An esteemed advocate for scientific research, Hildegarde was one of the earliest promoters of the use of herbal medicine to treat ailments. She wrote several books on medicine, including Physica, circa 1150, which was primarily concerned with the use of herbs in medicinal treatment.  Hildegarde may be best known however  as a composer.   Stemming from the traditional incantations of Church music, Hildegarde’s compositions took the form of a single chant-like, melodic line. These compositions are called antiphons and are a single line of music sung before and after a psalm. Hildegarde combined all of her music into a cycle called Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revelationum, circa 1151, orThe Symphony of the Harmony of the Heavenly Revelations, which reflects her belief that music was the highest praise to God.

Hildegarde herself created a drawing, or illumination, in her manuscript Scivias (Know the Ways), circa 1140–50, of her defining vision, in which the great span of the universe revealed itself to her in a trance as “round and shadowy…pointed at the top, like an egg…its outermost layer of a bright fire.”**

** "The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago, Brooklyn Museum of Art

Saturday, October 9, 2021

"The Masks of the Goddess" at the 2021 Parliament of World Religions


2021 Parliament of the World's Religions

"The Masks of the Goddess":

Contemporary Temple Masks & Ritual Theatre 

in Celebration of the Divine Feminine

Session # 1558  Presented by Lauren Raine MFA) 

 (only viewable for registered attendees)

"What the audience saw when a dancer looked through the eyes of the mask 

was the  Goddess  Herself, an ancient and yet utterly contemporary

 presence,  looking across time, across the miles."

Diane Darling, Director, Playwright 

I am honored to be presenting a slide show and talk at the Virtual 2021 Parliament of World’s Religions about the “Masks of the Goddess” Project. 

After studying sacred mask traditions in Bali,  I was inspired to create a Collection of 35 multi-cultural masks, which I dedicated as “Temple Masks” to the many faces of the worldwide Divine Feminine. The Collection travelled to communities throughout the U.S.A. in collaboration with Priestesses, Dancers, Storytellers and Ritualists for over 20 years, bringing the Goddesses to life through the magic of Invocation and Theatre. The Project was concluded in 2019 with an Exhibit at Her Church in San Francisco.

I was, indeed, a privilege to collaborate with so many people dedicated to the Return of the Goddess.  No artist could ask for more.

 To view slideshow:

Monday, October 18th

7:00 AM to 7:45 Mountain time (Arizona)

8:00 AM Central time

9:00 AM Eastern Time

6:00 AM Pacific time (California)


Agenda Parliament of World Religions

Photographs by Jerri Jo Idarius 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Quan Yin - a new ceramic Icon

I've made a number of sculptures and masks over the years  dedicated to Quan Yin *** . Quan Yin, the manifestation of Divine Compassion throughout Chinese Buddhism, represents the Bodhissatva - the Great Being who "hears the cries of the world" and returns, again and again, to aid the suffering of the world.  She is often shown, like Tara of Tibet, with many arms, and has been called "thousand armed Quan Yin"....the arms being the many ways she can help and assist those in need.  

I  have felt the need to create quite a few "Icons" for Quan Yin  and White Tara.  Perhaps it has to do with the divisiveness and harshness of the times we live in, the great crisis of global warming, covid, and disastrous wars that surround us.    Making art about Quan Yin,  and Goddesses of Compassion, represents for me a personal act of Invocation.  May She bring those qualities of Compassion into my heart, and may she show me how I can, as She does, assist.  

Art making can be a great act of invocation, a great act of healing, an act of magic if you will.  That was what each woman over the years was doing when she danced with the embodying the Goddess, she was invoking them for the benefit of all those present.  In-voke:  to "yoke", to "join".  I remember when I was working on a Quan Yin sculpture that became a fountain (Quan Yin is usually shown holding a chalice of water, representing the healing waters she gives to the world).....I remember that when I and the model I used for the sculpture were at work we both felt a kind of light in the room, a yellow, calm, serene sensation.  I feel the Goddess was with us as we prepared Her image through our creative process.   It really doesn't matter if you even "believe" in the Goddess Quan Yin.   I'm not sure that "believing" is anywhere near as important as simply wanting help, wanting guidance, opening the heart.  I don't "believe" the Divine Ones care what we call them or what form we give them in order to symbolize Their qualities and gifts.  

Making art can thus be a devotional act, a spiritual practice for the maker.  The art object, finished, becomes an icon, a talisman to remind and re-member.   When I made my fountain/icon in 2017 for Quan Yin my friend Queeny  very generously endured my casting her face and upper torso.  Queeny is Chinese Canadian.  I wanted to make a Quan Yin that, instead of the idealized and beautiful young woman She is usually portrayed as, looks more like a real woman in the real world of today -  the Bodhisattva walking among us, working among us, hearing and responding to the pain of the world, bringing healing and love, help and insight.  A  woman in her middle years, reflecting the experience that comes with living and embodiment.  
Mosaic artist Ginny Moss Rothwell did the same with her breathtaking contemporary Icons to
Quon Yin.  
"Jewel in the Lotus:  Quan Yin" by Ginny Moss Rothwell

Kuan Shih Yin - Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva

The Bodhisattva of Great Compassion

The Sanskrit name "Avalokiteshvara" means "the one who looks upon the world with compassion".  Translated into Chinese, the name is "Kuan Shih Yin"or Quan Yin.

Kuan: observe
Shih: the world / the region of sufferers
Yin: all the sounds of the world, in particular, the crying sounds of beings, verbal or mental, seeking help

In China, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is represented in female form and is known as Kuan Yin. In her hands, Kuan Yin may hold a willow branch, a vase with water or occasionally, a lotus flower.  The willow branch is used to heal people's illnesses or bring fulfillment to their requests.  The water ( the dew of compassion) has the quality of removing suffering, purifying the defilement of our body, speech and mind, and lengthening life.

In Buddhist art, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is sometimes shown with eleven heads, 1000 hands and eyes on the palms of each hand (Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva). The thousand eyes allow the Bodhisattva to see the sufferings of sentient beings, and the thousand hands allow her to reach out to help them.

There is a sacred place for the worship of Kuan Yin in China - the Putuo Mountain. It is actually an island located near the city of Ningpo, in Zhejiang Province. There are many stories of Kuan Yin's miraculous appearances at Putuo Mountain.

Actually, anyone can be like Kuan Yin. You may say that you don't have a thousand eyes or a thousand arms or that you lack skillful means, but it is your compassion that can transform you into a Kuan Yin. With your eyes and hands, you can help others. With your compassion, you can bring peace and tranquility to this world.

from:  Buddhanet

 Kuan Yin  at Putuo Mountain, China

Friday, October 1, 2021

Farewell to Summer............



I best love 
my lost and wildish 
girl heart
reborn surprised
among the blonde grasses of August

running for no reason
among the dusty gaity of daisies,
bending knee, foot, flower
for the sun,
for the sun

just this day, to put aside
subtle things

of creaking age, 
duty and reason.

Just this day, dear friends,
dance with me
on the generous Earth
making Her 
Circle Dance

Let this be all that matters today:
this blue exaultation
of  summer skies
given and given

and praise,
praise the day,
the colors and taste of it