Friday, November 26, 2021

A Thanks Giving Postscript Poem


Another little postscript -  a poem  I remembered.  For Thanks Giving.  
  by Eleanor Lerman

This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, "Last night,
the channel was full of starfish."
  And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.

Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
were born at a good time. Because you were able
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.

So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanks Giving

Perhaps the World Ends Here

by Joy Harjo (with thanks to Trista of THE GIRL GOD)

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table.
So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it.
Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions
on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children.
They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves
and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table.
It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror.
A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table,
and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table
while we are laughing and crying,
eating of the last sweet bite.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Marga: Footprints in the Mythic Sand



Since I seem to be unable to write much of anything new these days (although my mind is full of images) I have decided to return to posts from the past that I like a lot, posts that are "touchstones" along the path, to re-explore posts that lead me back to the "roots" I'm currently looking for when I go into the studio.  Which, I see, is really the same work I've been pursuing for a very long time.  Perhaps I just get a bit closer to the source.  I hope. 

So  here is this entirely appropriate  article (which I'll be improving along the way) from 2010 called "Marga".  At the time I was thinking a lot about the synchronicities that continually seemed to occur in the course of my creative wanderings and searches.  I had a brief internet  coorespondance with an Englishman named Rober d'Amour after one of these posts on this Blog.  He has since entirely  disappeared, along with his Blogs,  and this was probably never his name anyway.   But I shall always be grateful to him for introducing me to the concept of Marga.  So..............from the 2011 Blog post below, "footprints in the Mythic sand."  

May, 2011

The "Blog sphere" has been a continuing source of information and inspiration - recently I received a fascinating correspondence from Robur D'Amour  who introduced me to the concept of  Marga.  This  is a term I've not run across before, but it resonates  for me, another viewpoint  of what  I've fancifully called "conversations with the universe".  Robur  kindly gave me permission to quote some of his insights:

"'Marga' is a term that means following a path of signs or symbols that lead a person to their spiritual self. Marga is a bit like finding one's way through a labyrinth by reading signs that are given to you along the way by the unconscious."
Carl Jung believed that what mattered most in life was to find his spiritual identity. He felt that a person could best achieve this by  leading what he termed a 'symbolic life'. Jung wrote:
“when people feel they are living the symbolic life the see themselves as  actors in the divine drama.......That gives the only meaning to human life; everything else is banal and you can dismiss it. A career, producing of children, are all maya (illusion) compared to that one thing, that your life is meaningful.”
I do not agree with Jung that a career, the producing of children, and all of the travails and joys and conflicts , the "banalities" of being human,  are so easily dismissed as unimportant.  Perhaps it was easier to see it so if one was a wealthy and respected man with a wife and servants to attend to those annoying tasks.......but I do agree with him that a symbolic life, a symbolic or, as Carolyn Myss*** termed it,  an "archetypal path",  can be profoundly meaningful.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell, who was a great admirer of Jung,  referred to this "archetypal path"  as  'marga'.  It is a way of living, a way of proceeding  without following any particular creed other than paying attention to what is presented to you by the Divine within your own system of symbols, however that may appear to you.  In The Hero's Journey (p45) Campbell writes:
"Adolf Bastian, a German anthropologist, has meant a great deal to me with just this main idea. The common themes that come out of the collective unconscious he calls elementary ideas.... In India the elementary ideas are called 'marga', (meaning)  the path. Marga is from a root word 'mrg', which refers to the footprints left by an animal, and thus  you follow that animal. The animal you are trying to follow is your own spiritual self. And the path is indicated  by mythological images.
Follow the tracks of the animal and you will be led to the animal's home. Who is the animal? The animal is the human spirit. So, following these elementary ideas, you are led to your own deepest spiritual source." *

 In practical terms, this means paying attention to what we see in the world around ourselves, to the synchronicities that occur, and to symbolic and meaningful "signs" that are presented to us -  in dreams,  and within the things we come across in our daily lives. The symbols - the "footprints"  we see are presented to  us by Fate, the Goddess, God, the unconscious,  the Muse...........or whatever name you like to give to the source that we cannot see, yet what determines 'what happens next'.  I just call it the Mystery.  

Campbell described it as following Marga as a way to find one's own myth:

“…the way to find your own myth is to find those traditional symbols that speak to you, to use them, you might say, as bases for meditation. …Let the symbols play upon the imagination, act upon the imagination, and bring your own imagination into play in relation to these [symbols] and then you will be experiencing the marga or the power of these symbols to open things up for you” (Campbell, 2011)****

Following the links in a trail of symbols that are presented to us by the unconscious, amounts to finding one's way through a labyrinth.  Labyrinths and mazes were, by the way,  common features in Elizabethan gardens, and the U.K. has many elaborate mazes still preserved, mazes that are wonderful metaphors for that "path of symbols" Jung wrote about.  As Robur wrote in his coorespondence with me back in 2010, 

"The marga (path of symbols) that I seem to have been unwittingly following is a very curious one.  I originally seemed to connect the word marga with Megara.  Megara was popularised as the heroine in the Disney version of Hercules. It's 'only' a film for children, but it does, to some extent, bring the archetypes to life. Megara is a very vivid anima archetype."

I personally was somewhat amazed, speaking of my own "Marga", to read his further comment that:

"Megara was originally a Greek word for a fissure in the ground used
for sacred rites connected with beliefs about the underworld (the unconscious)
and Persephone-Hecate." 


 In 1993 I began a novel, the only novel I've ever written, called The Song of Medusa.  I  wrote it with artist Duncan Eagleson, and it was inspired by the writings of  Riane Eisler** It was based on the idea of an ancient shamanic priestess of an old-European, Earth Goddess culture. The priestess was called a "Singer", and she entered altered states of consciousness and prophesy by going into fissures or caves in the earth.  This was called being "given to the Serpent".  The Serpent arose, for me, from the importance of the Serpent or Dragon as a symbol for the telluric  energies of the Earth, as a universal symbol of the renewal of life, and also for the early Earth Goddess.  The novel was about the conflict that happened as this long lived priestess experienced her world shattered by the invasions of warlike, Indo-European tribes. As the little novel evolved, somehow, and surprising indeed to me, my own version of the myth of Persephone (I called her "Persepha") also evolved within the story, so much so that it became the novel's secondary theme. 

I have recently (in 2018) had fun looking back at this little novel, and I illustrated it.  I still like it, although I see it as rather naive now, a project that could have been more evolved but was not.  

But interestingly, there are several things I did not know in the winter of 1993 when I began writing about my "Singers", loosely based on readings I had done about native American shamanic practices.  One was that the Oracle of Delphi (called the Pythoness) supposedly became intoxicated or achieved an altered state of consciousness by breathing in fumes from cracks or fissures in the earth (possibly volcanic?).   In this state she prophesized or answered questions asked of her by petitioners,  being perceived as possessed by the God. 

Delphi was dedicated to the God Apollo in classical Greece, but earlier, probably extending in to pre-historical cultures even before the arrival of the Greeks, it was  dedicated to Gaia, the First Mother or original Earth Mother.  One can see in this "transfer of ownership" of a sacred Earth Mysteries site from a Goddess to a God the evolution of patriarchal co-option as well.  

As a further footnote to this wonderful "linkage" that can occur:  not long after re-posting this Blog post about Marga in May of 2016 to illustrate a synchronicity I had experienced, I happened to read an article in Feminism and Religion (I posted the link below on my Blog  May 10th of 2016):

Dance of Persephone: The Trata of Megara by Laura Shannon 

So here I am, in 2021, re-posting and pondering again,  looking for those footprints. 

All I can say is,  "Bingo!"

Learning about "MARGA" and "MEGARA" was thus a revelation for me, a reminder that creativity can be truly magical. It seems, once again, that in the course of opening to the creative process, we do indeed open to the collective mind, and access information from that very mysterious place.

**  Eisler, Riane, The Chalice and the Blade  (1987)
***Myss, Carolyn  on Archetypes

“All truths wait in all things,

they neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,

they do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon to be born

the insignificant is as big to me as any

(what is more or less than a touch?)

I believe a leaf of grass is no less

than the journey work of the stars.”

.......Walt Whitman

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Two New Masks...........

After watching my students produce such wonderful masks at my recent workshop, got inspired to make a new Goddess mask myself.  Then another......... One for Quon Yin,  "She Who Hears the Cries of the World",  and Ceres,  Roman Goddess of the harvests. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Hecate's Time...............


So many familiar faces
I have known you all, as you have known me
Time and again, 
We meet when the Moon is hidden
And darkness is strong.

To you, so new, it seems I come from days long gone
From deep pits of forbidden spaces, almost forgotten
Yet I am always here, stirring your deep dreams
Your dreaming self knows me well, very well.

I am Hecate, Grandmother of all
Queen of the Night 
(strikes staff on floor 3x)

Queen of the dark and unborn Moon:

You will find me standing
With my lovely, fearsome, baying hounds
Where three roads meet
Speak well or not at all
And take the road I show you.

Mine is the realm of deep uncertainty
The changing before becoming
The choice of oblivion (strikes staff on floor 3x)
When the wheel of birth and death is turning
You’ll find me haunting the crank
Do not ask, just listen, and know.

It is I who hear Persephone’s underworld cries
It is I who see dim shapes of futures forming
I who bring the nightmare
And soothe the sleepless, disheveled souls.

I am your torchbearer and guide to the nether world
Where the visible meets the invisible
Where all things quicken and begin to grow
Always first in darkness.

Listen! I am speaking to you

From the dark side of the moon
From the hidden side of your life
From the ancient end of time
Your challenge is to know me

For only ignorance is truly dark.

by Diane Darling (2001)

The above performance excerpt is from "The Masque of the Goddess", Directed by Diane Darling and performed by members of her community in Sebastopol, California, in 2001.  

Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Work of Seeing: An Artist's Journey


"The Work of seeing is done,
  now practice heart-work
  upon those images 
  captive within you"

 Rainier Maria Rilke

Recently I applied for a grant, the only grant I am aware of that is specifically for spiritual artists ("spiritual" and "transformative" are very taboo words in the Fine Arts World).  I very much doubt that I will win the grant because no one gives art grants to people in their 70's unless you are famous..........but it was worth the entry fee to answer the questions and provide "Bio" of my work as a "spiritual artist".  In that endeavor I saw the threads that woven through my career so clearly, from a young 20 year old declaring I was going to be an here, and now, at this touchstone.   Here's what I wrote to them:

 "The deep parts of my life pour onward,
it seems as if things are more like me now,
that I can see farther into paintings.
I feel closer to what language can't reach."           

Rainier Maria Rilke

I would have to say that the journey of being an artist has been my spiritual journey. The artworks, the performances, the collaborations I’ve shared with others…..all are the artifacts and touchstones of that journey.  

Artists are the myth makers of their time, and myth is the means I've threaded through all my experiences.  I've come to feel that we, as artists,  have a responsibility to ask  what are the myths, the stories,  we are telling.  How do they serve, on our personal quests for meaning, healing, and love?  How do they serve a world in crisis?  My own thread has been to find ways to  envision how we are woven into the fabric of  planetary life, interdependent and cyclical, one with the mystery and intelligence of nature.   I see that I  have evolved  a personal iconography over the years  that has followed me on the journey, an iconography  that twines and branches,  like the interwoven roots of trees that hold up forests, throughout all the work I do now.  

Indeed, there are certain images "captive within me"  as Rilke wrote that are firmly encased in my heart, and over and over and over again I renew them.  

Thankyou, Rainier Maria Rilke

I am aware of the American need to continually be "new" "innovative" and "revolutionary".  We love to be "shocked", so much so that "shock" has become de rigueur to the point of boredom.  We are not a contemplative culture, and a youth-oriented consumer culture particularly demands that which is advertised as  "new" and "life-changing"  (which is often that which is old, re-packaged in shiny plastic and trimmed with buzzwords).  

                 plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose 

As May Sarton said,  at 70+ "Now I Become Myself'.  I  can rest in contemplation with those renewing images that are sustaining for me, my personal "iconography".  Some, indeed, I find I very much want to share!    

"Earth Birth" (2015)
I think most Elders find themselves wanting, indeed, needing, to Tell their stories .  This is not just a need unique to an individual - I believe it is  a primal genetic urge just as the urge to mate or reproduce  are universal; it is not very long in the history of humanity that people were literate.  Throughout most of human evolution tribal knowledge was passed on orally, through the stories of the Elders, and through the ever evolving tribal mythologies (which later became concretized into religions). 

The stories and the tellings (mythologies) held the knowledge each generation needed to  go forward in their quest for survival, as well as the discoveries or innovations of each Elder's generation that assisted evolution.  Which plant was healing, and which was poison?  How to birth and care for a newborn?   How to worship, how to talk with the ancestors, how to behave for the common good  of the tribe, what days were auspicious or sacred..............and so on.   

I suppose such a 'justification" is unnecessary.....we all desire to share, surely, the richest and best of what we have learned along the pathways.  

ROOTS!  My next journey, I think, will take me not only ON, but IN.  Into the Roots.......... and as Thanksgiving draws near,  I leave this post with great gratitude, as well as appreciation for the rejuvenation and rest of the season.

"Past Desire, Hope or Loss,  I Rest in You, A Seed"  (1993)

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The Red Balloon Found at Last.........

 The writing on this color penciled xerox from 1974 says:

I can't imagine where that balloon went!  I can understand where the smile went, and I could find out where Felicia went and is still going and even the bottle of beer.  I know it's been a part of our biology and excreted and absorbed and evaporated and it may even be beer again for all I know, but.....the balloon.  

I have this feeling it must be the key, the one unpopable thing in this picture;  that when Felicia and I find ourselves drinking beer on some summer day we can't yet imagine or hope for, watching our reflections in the water, the Balloon will have been there all along, waiting for us.

Only we won't remember.